Remembering who you are? Overcoming fear, disappointment and failure.

I used to dream big dreams. Crazy, seemingly unachievable dreams. I used to encourage others to do the same. As a teen I secretly believed there was something special about me. That I was put here to achieve something big. I wanted to make a difference. I believed I could. I wanted to make people’s lives better. I believed life could be better – for everyone. I honestly believed I could do or be anything.

If you speak to a child, they still have this. You ask them what they want to be and do and it ranges from an astronaut to a bus driver to a rock star to a marine biologist. They believe it’s as simple as deciding what you want to be and do and you know what?…it is! It really is as simple as deciding what you really want to be and do and then working towards that. However, the tough part is staying the course.

I did do some pretty amazing things. I did see some dreams come true. Some pretty big dreams and then, I stopped. Why? I guess the bottom line is I stopped believing. Somewhere along the way I forgot who I was and stopped believing. Things got in the way namely disappointment, pain and failure. Life turned out to be so much harder than I expected.

However, the truth is the goal still stood and my chances were/are still the same, I just didn’t believe it anymore and this was the only real obstacle that stood in my way.

Unbelief, which is actually a lack of hope, can rob you of your dreams and your destiny.

Unbelief, which is actually a lack of hope, can rob you of your dreams and your destiny. It is actually the only real thing you need to overcome in order to get back on track. All the things you think are holding you back – that broken relationship, that mounting debt, that lack of resources, that lack of education, that tiredness, are not your real problem. Your real problem is lack of hope and belief in spite of these things.

Lets look at a few of these things that hold us back and how they are not true obstacles except in our own minds:

FEAR

Fear is the enemy of Faith. Fear is the monster under the bed. You kind of know the thing you fear probably doesn’t exist but it still has the ability to make you stay on the bed anyway. You’ve never actually seen this thing you fear (usually because it has not actually happened) you just worry it might happen – and yet it immobilises you.

Fear only has control over you because you let it.

To start with make yourself take a good proper look at the thing you fear, even if it’s just peeking through your fingers. Now this is the scary bit. What does this thing look like? If you look at it you may find it is actually a lot smaller than you imagined. But, let’s say this fear, when you look at it, is actually pretty ugly.   Ask yourself what can this thing do? What power does it actually have? What can it do to you? You may realize that even if it did it’s worse you can see you would get through it, or around it and most importantly on the other side of it, leaving it behind. Even if you look head-on to your fear and you know that by challenging this thing it is going to get messy, you may see just by facing it that just behind its murky, dark, intimidating silhouette there are tiny glimpses of light shining through. Beyond this shadow that is casting itself over your life is the source that is creating this shadow – your future! This may just give you the hope and strength to do battle with this thing because, at the end of the day the only way out and to that light that is waiting there for you like a promise is to get through this fear.

One thing is for sure, it doesn’t work to wait until the fear goes away. This troll will diligently guard the entrance to the cave you’ve found yourself in day and night. It is not going anywhere. Instead you have to feel the fear, face it, see it and proceed forward anyway.

If you let fear dictate what you do you will stay in that cave. If you let fear give you directions, you will just be guided down another tunnel. Its purpose is to keep you in the dark so you cannot see the big, beautiful, bright world that is out there for you beyond it.

Fear also tells us lies. It’s important to remember this. Fear is a big old bragger who loves to exaggerate its power. It will tell you lies about yourself, about others and about your circumstances and it especially tells lies about the future. Do not listen to fear. It is a liar. Sometimes fear might be telling you the truth about itself, but it never tells you the whole picture because then you might actually deal with it and leave it behind and it would lose it’s power.

Fear only has power over you because of what you believe about it but often those beliefs just aren’t true and this is why the truth (about anything) always sets you free.

It’s not easy facing fear but it is necessary.

Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.

DISAPPOINTMENT

One of the biggest things that prevents us from having hope and believing is disappointment. This is one that has taken me on a huge detour from my dreams in recent years. When things haven’t worked out how you hoped and when you’ve trusted and felt let down again and again it is easy to start to believe that perhaps you got it wrong. Perhaps the ‘good stuff’ is only for some people and you’re just not one of those. Perhaps it’s foolish even to keep believing – it just sets you up for yet more disappointment. In some respects this is true. Believing again does set you up for more disappointment, the potential is there, it could happen again – maybe. But what does the alternative look like?

For a long time I tried to ‘not believe’ and to not hope. I found I’d get disappointed anyway. And what it comes down to is a case of whether you want to just exist or live. We have to keep going. Somehow you have to pick yourself up and start walking forward again. It might be a crawl at first or perhaps you’re dragging your feet, staggering forward without the energy to jog let alone run but just make sure it is in the direction of your dreams and away from what has held you back. The alternative is to lay down and die and a life not lived is no life at all so that’s one disappointment all in itself.

Recovering from disappointment is very painful and often slow but, we simply must go on. Borrow the strength from friends and from God if you don’t have your own. Ask them to drag you but get moving, inch by inch, step by step and that disappointment will get further and further away from you and you’ll be able to look back on it because it will be behind you. You’ll see it was just another obstacle – one you really could get through and over.

The important thing is to not stay in disappointment – keep moving.

The important thing is to not stay in it. Do not stay in a state of disappointment. Your weapons against it are hope and faith and if you don’t feel those (which I didn’t) simply put one foot in front of the other and start walking until you begin to feel it – just don’t stand still in it.

PAST FAILURE

Linked to disappointment is failure. When things go wrong it destroys our hope and our faith. Especially when we feel we have caused or contributed to the failures by our own bad choices, wrong-doing or lack of wisdom, strength etc. We think we deserve the failure, we caused it so who are we to expect to get out of the circumstances we are in? We made our bed, we have to lie in it. Perhaps we’ve even had a second chance at something and felt we blew it – AGAIN, so we’ve used up our good vibes and don’t deserve any more and so we stop believing.

The problem with this thinking is we are not acknowledging that failure is a part of life not the end of it. We struggle with anything negative – pain, failure, conflict, disappointment, fear – because these things aren’t ‘nice’ in fact they sometimes hurt – a lot. In our brains we equate pain with ‘badness’ yet there is necessary pain, good pain you could even call it: Child-birth, surgery, growing pains. It doesn’t mean the pain is nice, it can be pretty horrible, but it doesn’t mean it’s not necessary or that it won’t produce good things. We cannot go through life avoiding pain. If we do, we will also avoid growth.

There is such a thing as ‘good’ and ‘necessary’ pain.

It is very easy to get stuck in failure, to succumb to it and to make it your identity. Failure sometimes is your ticket to another chance. Don’t stay there. Don’t give up. Failure is not the final destination. If you let it, a failure can colour (discolour) or even dictate the rest of your life. This can be something you’ve messed up yourself or something outside of your control that someone else has done to you or that circumstances have dictated. Staying in failure makes you a perpetual victim. Some people never get over one incident, mistake or event that happens in their life. They make it their final destination rather than making it a lesson, a temporary set back or even a spring-board.

Failure is not your final destination.  It could be your ticket to another chance.

Accept failure, learn from it and move on.

Moving on from disappointment, fear and failure?

There is life to be had out there. The future is coming whether you like it or not so be an active part of it. Allow your heart and mind to start to see the infinite possibilities that could happen rather than dwelling on the disappointment, fear and failure that has already happened.

What you need to know right now is that it isn’t the end.

Whatever has happened has happened but where you are right now, whatever age you are, you are not at your final destination unless you stay where you are and do nothing. Navigate the obstacles of disappointment, fear and failure or whatever else is holding you back. See them for what they are; just obstacles. Yes they are in the way but they can be overcome. Don’t just lie down and give up.

If all you can do today is sit up, then sit up, if you can manage to stand, then stand, if you can take a baby tiny pigeon step, then do that. Just don’t stay where you are. As you exercise movement, as you look in the right direction, your hope will return and your faith will begin to grow. It may feel at first like you are making very little if any progress at all, but believe me you are because the changes must start in your mind and your heart before any lasting change can happen in the physical.

Decide today to wake up. Decide today to live.

The Art of letting go

Is God a nice God?

Is ‘letting go’ a brave act of surrender or merely giving up?

They say the hardest choice you’ll ever face is whether to walk away or try harder, but what if someone else gives up before you.  Do you let them walk away? Or do we grab hold of their leg shamelessly losing all self-respect and let them drag us a long as they try to get away from us? Do we even have a choice?

I’m pretty sure there is an art to letting go.  I’m pretty sure I don’t have it! In fact I’m certain I’m absolutely rubbish at it!  It says a lot about me I guess.  I am fiercely loyal.  Ask any of my friends, they know full well and from experience, you mess with one of them I’d personally rip the face of the perpetrator if they wanted me to – they never do funnily enough.  I also work hard.  I believe life is difficult and meant to be worked at in order to get the most out of it.  I believe good things don’t come easily and you have to work to get them and work even harder to keep them.  I think this should be true of everything perhaps except love.  Surely love should at least come easily even if it’s like holding on to a slippery eel to maintain it – or at least in my experience.

I know relationships are hard work but shouldn’t it be easy to love someone and to be loved??

Cliché phrases come about because they usually have some sort of truth or wisdom in them even if they do become a little simplistic or sugar coated along the way.  For example, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is – I realize I secretly believe this.

The problem is whatever we secretly believe determines our outlook, expectation and experience of life to a large extent in my opinion.

Do I believe God is nice?  I believe he is good as in ‘just’ but do I believe he is nice?  Hmm, I’m not so sure… Would he do something just because he thinks I’d like it?   Doesn’t everything have to have purpose in the big ole master plan?

Recently I was given something so beautiful, so perfect, so taken from my innermost secret dreams that I wondered if it was too good to be true. Well, guess what?  It was!  So what was that about?  Did I just serve a purpose in the plan, did the experience exist for the greater good of the greater plan. Or was it just a bit cruel?  Not so much a sick joke in a sadistic way, but not very kind.

Certainly as I get older I’m less sure about much more and realize I actually understand very little.  I’ve been contemplating the notion of whether we have a ‘right’ to be happy and fulfilled in life which is of course the message sold to us in this generation more than ever.

I’m known for going on about going for your dreams, about holding out for the life you’ve dreamed of and not accepting any less.  I still believe we should aim for the sky but I am less convinced we are entitled to this privilege.  I read a thought-provoking article recently that challenged the sense of entitlement today’s generation expects.  There are simply not enough dream jobs or dream people to go around.

When is it time to let go of the dream and start accepting reality?  But don’t the dreams to an extent also create our reality? My head hurts!

Even if we do want to let go, how do we do that?  How do you stop believing even something you no longer want to believe?

Recently I’ve been really gaining some spiritual revelations through The Magician’s Nephew by C.S Lewis while reading it to my son. Yes it is a kid’s book!  Like this is exactly what I meant about dreaming and hoping:

“Well, you know how it feels if you begin hoping for something that you want desperately badly; you almost fight against the hope because it is too good to be true; you’ve been disappointed so often before.”
― C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew

Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to hope.  Hope is more than wishful thinking but I think it is also different to the certainty of faith.  I came to the conclusion that Hope can only come from believing that God is a good God and also a nice one.  When Digory (in The Magicians Nephew) resisted picking the apple for himself to take to his mother to heal her but stuck to what Aslan had asked him to do and returned with just one apple for him, he was sad and afraid that he had let his mother down – that his dream of seeing her well would no longer happen.  However, he’d forgotten about the power and heart of the one who had asked him to go on the task.  Of course, Aslan then gave him an apple to take to his mother.  The key was waiting until Aslan offered the fruit rather than taking it.  This is how it would have a lasting affect.  Aslan goes on to explain that although the witch would gain the benefits of the youth and beauty of the fruit, it was spoiled for her due to her stealing it, uninvited:

“Child, that is why all the rest are now a horror to her. That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Oh, the fruit is good, but they loath it ever after.”
― C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew

I’m sure it was no coincidence that I also heard Philip Yancey an Inspirational American author speak at the weekend on suffering and pain and our response to it.  He said many amazing things but the quote that stands out to me was, ‘Nothing that happened to you is irredeemable.  God is the great recycler who turns our junk into something better.’  So I guess there is always hope.  And as C.S Lewis says;

“When things go wrong, you’ll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start to go right they often go on getting better and better.”
― C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew

It’s a scary thing to wait, and not take matters into your own hands.  To trust that there is an even better plan. One that is given as a gift to you rather than a poor reflection from something you’ve plucked yourself at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Image

I strongly suspect that this might be the Art of letting go.